Classical-music course teaches the Art of Listening


Tom Buesch will begin his free lunchtime talks about classical music on Friday.
AMSF/Courtesy photo

While simply immersing yourself in classical music is superb, it can be even more enjoyable to know a little bit — or a lot — going in. Program books that Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) provides at performances acquaint audiences with specific pieces of music, and preconcert talks give even more background and information about what musicians will perform. But the Art of Listening six-week series offers a deep dive into learning about classical music.

The free lunchtime talks start on Friday with Tom Buesch’s overview of what to listen for during AMFS’s 15 upcoming concertos.

He’ll start with the basics: A concerto is a large-scale instrumental piece composed for an orchestra and a soloist in three movements. It’s usually written for piano (Don’t miss the July 14 performance) and violin (Check out Aug. 4), but any instrument can solo in a concerto.

He’ll talk about the early years of concertos and then discuss how to listen to a concerto, which involves paying attention to the relationship between the orchestra and the soloist — namely, how they each play the same piece of music differently. The four possibilities include: the orchestra playing alone, the soloist playing alone, the orchestra and soloist playing together in harmony or the orchestra and soloist playing “against,” or in conflict, with one another.

“The interplay between the soloist and the whole orchestra is one of the most fascinating parts. It’s complex and interesting to watch. There’s a lot going on in a concerto, much more than in a symphony,” he said. “It’s really different the way the orchestra and the soloist interpret the same music — the same melody. The orchestra and the soloist are not always in perfect synch, and they don’t mean to be. They may use a call-and-answer mode or a contrast mode.”

Buesch encourages attendees to listen for the orchestra and the soloist’s different interpretations of the same composition.

“Listen to what is going on with the soloist and what is going on with the orchestra right now, and (notice): How are those two things different … and yet when you listen to them, they sound wonderfully together,” he said. “It’s part of the magic of a concerto.”

AMSF/Courtesy photo

Since the late 1990s, he has helped increase appreciation for classical music through his Listener’s Master Class, offered by AMFS in conjunction with Colorado Mountain College.

“We have been so lucky in Aspen to have Tom as one of our most passionate advocates for decades,” said Alan Fletcher, AMFS president and CEO. “He is a true music lover and loves sharing his knowledge and passion for the music as much he loves the music itself.”

During the Art of Listening series, Buesch joins three other speakers, who will likely talk more specifically about upcoming pieces of music and will definitely expand beyond the theme of concertos. Graeme Boone presents July 21, Harlow Robinson speaks July 28, and Denise von Glahn talks Aug. 11.

“The whole Art of Listening series gives a strong variety in the background of the kinds of presentations because we are four different people,” Buesch said. “People love (the series).”

Attendees during his talks on July 7, 14, and Aug. 4 will leave with a list of all the concertos in this summer’s schedule, as well as notes on what he covered.

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